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Course Reserves & Copyright

Copyright policy for electronic reserves is considered in compliance with U.S. Code: Title 17, Section 107 governing Fair Use. Specifically, any reproduction, either photocopied or electronic, of copyrighted material that is placed on Course Reserve at Duke University Medical Center Library & Archives, will conform to the following:

  • Book excerpts placed on electronic reserve may not exceed 20% of the total pages in the book. This limit is cumulative over the course of the term.
  • Articles which are available through a Duke Library-licensed database, ejournal, ebook, or located on the open Web can be placed within a course’s learning management system (BlueDocs, Canvas, Sakai, etc), or in a Box folder with course participants given access.
  • The Library can provide guidance on creating durable links. For assistance, please email us at
  • Electronic materials, which must be obtained from a non-Duke source, are subject to copyright rules.  Based on fair use criteria, library staff will determine if limited portions of an individual work can be scanned or copied for course reserves.  Faculty are responsible for additional costs to copyright compliance that exceeds fair use.  
  • Materials placed on electronic reserve for subsequent or repeated semesters for the same course and instructor may require copyright permission. Copyright permission will be sought through the Copyright Clearance Center. Faculty will be responsible for copyright costs.

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Fair Use

Many educational uses of copyright-protected materials are covered by fair use. There are no definite rules about when fair use overrides copyright laws. Each claim for fair use should be considered individually based on these four factors:

  1. Purpose: the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  2. Nature: the nature of the copyrighted work (original or derivative).
  3. Amount: the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. Effect: the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Based on the fair use criteria above, library staff will determine if limited portions of an individual work can be scanned or copied for course reserves.  Faculty are responsible for additional costs to copyright compliance that exceed fair use.  

For copyright questions pertaining to Course Reserves, please email us at

These resource can help you think through if fair use applies to your particularly case:

Photocopying & Digitizing for Instruction

Fair use may cover photocopying or digitizing materials for yourself and your students in the context of in-person or distance instruction.


The U.S. Copyright Office gives some additional guidance about photocopying copyrighted materials in the “Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians” Circular 21. The guidelines allow you as a faculty member or instructor in a not-for-profit educational institution to make a single copy of a book chapter, journal, or newspaper article, short essay, story or poem, or a chart, graph, diagram, drawing or picture from a work. The single copy is to be used by you for your research, use in teaching, or preparation for teaching a class. If you need to make multiple copies for your class, consider the following guidelines:

  • Brevity: a short work or section of a work
  • Spontaneity: the copying is requested by the individual teacher and the decision to use the work is so close to the effective use in teaching that there is no time to seek permission.
  • Cumulative effect:
    • (1) the copying is only for one course in the school;
    • (2) not more than one short work or excerpts can be used from the same author and no more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume PER TERM;
    • (3) no more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one class during one term;
    • (4) newspaper articles and news sections of journals are exempted from the last two requirements.
  • A copyright notice appears on the copy so that the students realize the work is protected under copyright law.
  • The copying should not replace a textbook, anthology, or purchase of books, reprints or journals.
  • Consumable works, such as workbooks, exercises, and study guides, may not be reproduced.
  • Copying of the same item by the same teacher should probably not be repeated over several years, though this is NOT stipulated by the copyright law.
  • If you ask your students to pay for copies, the fee cannot be higher than the actual cost of copying the materials.


The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 provides additional rights to address the need to use copyrighted materials in distance education courses. This act allows instructors to digitally share materials that would reasonably be shared in a normal class setting.

It also allows analog versions (paper, film, and video) to be converted to digital formats IF:

  • A digital version is not available for purchase or lease
  • The available digital version has technological measures that protect it from being used under the provisions of the TEACH Act.

For shared materials, the follow criteria must be met:

  • The use of materials has to be under the direct supervision of the teacher.
  • It has to be a part of the class session and not something to be viewed before or after the class session; it must be part of a mediated instructional activity.
  • The material must be directly related to and of importance to the teaching of the content.
  • Transmission of the materials must be directly sent to and limited to the students in the class.
  • Technological measures must be taken to ensure the material is not accessible beyond the class session and cannot be further disseminated.
  • There is no tampering with the copyright holder's technological measures for preventing retention and redistribution.

The following resources can help you better understand the TEACH Act and your rights to reproduce copyrighted materials as an instructor:

Use Images in Instruction

If you are using images in instructional materials like slides, you do not need to ask for permissions if your use is covered by fair use. Consider the following best practices:

  • Images on slides in the classroom or an educational setting:
    • If you are talking about the image during the class, you have good fair use case
    • If it's superfluous (ie, cute cats), you should probably find other images that you have rights to use (images in the public domain or with a Creative Commons license)
  • If work is going to be commercialized
    • Do NOT copyright-protected images without seeking permissions from the copyright holder